303 U.S. 552 (1938), 511, New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co.

Docket Nº:No. 511
Citation:303 U.S. 552, 58 S.Ct. 703, 82 L.Ed. 1012
Party Name:New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co.
Case Date:March 28, 1938
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 552

303 U.S. 552 (1938)

58 S.Ct. 703, 82 L.Ed. 1012

New Negro Alliance


Sanitary Grocery Co.

No. 511

United States Supreme Court

March 28, 1938

Argued March 2, 3, 1938




An association of Negroes, organized for the mutual improvement of its members and the promotion of civic, educational, benevolent, and charitable enterprises, requested a Grocery Company to adopt a policy of employing Negro clerks, in the course of personnel changes, in certain stores of the company patronized largely by colored people but in which no colored clerks were employed. The request was ignored, whereupon the organization caused a picket,

Page 553

bearing a placard reading "Do Your Part! Buy Where You Work! No Negroes Employed Here," to patrol in front of one of the stores, on one day, and caused, or threatened to cause, a similar patrol of two other stores.


1. That, within the meaning of the Act of Mar. 23, 1932, § 13, 29 U.S.C. § 113, the "Norris-LaGuardia Act," there was a "labor dispute" in which the Negro organization and its officers were "persons interested." P. 559.

The fact that the dispute was "racial," in that it grew from racial discrimination, does not remove the case from the scope of the Act.

2. Under §§ 4 and 7 of the Act, the District Court was without jurisdiction to issue an injunction in the premises against the Negro organization and its officers at the suit of the Grocery Company. P. 561.

92 F.2d 510 reversed.

Certiorari, 302 U.S. 679, to review the affirmance of a decree enjoining the present petitioner from picketing, boycotting, etc., the stores of the respondent. The case was decided below on bill and answer.

Page 554

ROBERTS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The matter in controversy is whether the case made by the pleadings involves or grows out of a labor dispute within the meaning of § 13 of the Norris-La Guardia Act.1

The respondent, by bill filed in the District Court of the District of Columbia, sought an injunction restraining the petitioners and their agents from picketing its stores and engaging in other activities injurious to its business. The petitioners answered, the cause was heard upon bill and answer, and an injunction was awarded. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed the decree.2 The importance of the question presented and asserted conflict with the decisions of this and other federal courts moved us to grant certiorari.

Page 555

As the case was heard upon the bill and a verified answer, the facts upon which decision must rest are those set forth in the bill and admitted or not denied by the answer and those affirmatively set up in the answer.

The following facts alleged in the bill are admitted by the answer: respondent, a Delaware corporation, operates 255 retail grocery, meat, and vegetable stores, a warehouse, and a bakery in the District of Columbia, and employs both white and colored persons. April 3, 1936, it opened a new store at 1936 Eleventh Street N.W., installing personnel having an acquaintance with the trade in the vicinity. Petitioner, the New Negro Alliance, is a corporation composed of colored persons, organized for the mutual improvement of its members and the promotion of civic, educational, benevolent, and charitable enterprises. The individual petitioners are officers of the corporation. The relation of employer and employees does not exist between the respondent and the petitioners or any of them. The petitioners are not engaged in any business competitive with that of the respondent, and the officers, members, or representatives of the Alliance are not engaged in the same business or occupation as the respondent or its employees.

As to other matters of fact, the state of the pleadings may be briefly summarized. The bill asserts: the petitioners have made arbitrary and summary demands upon the respondent that it engage and employ colored persons in managerial and sales positions in the new store and in various other stores; it is essential to the conduct of the business that respondent employ experienced persons in its stores, and compliance with the arbitrary demands of defendants would involve the discharge of white employees and their replacement with colored; it is imperative that respondent be free in the selection and control of persons employed by it without interference by the petitioners

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or others; petitioners have written respondent letters threatening boycott and ruination of its business and notices that, by means of announcements, meetings, and advertising, the petitioners will circulate statements that respondent is unfair to colored people and to the colored race and, contrary to fact, that respondent does not employ [58 S.Ct. 705] colored persons; respondent has not acceded to these demands. The answer admits the respondent has not acceded to the petitioners' demands, but denies the other allegations and states that the Alliance and its agents have requested only that respondent, in the regular course of personnel changes in its retail stores, give employment to negroes as clerks, particularly in stores patronized largely by colored people; that the petitioners have not requested the discharge of white employees nor sought action which would involve their discharge. It denies the making of the threats described, and alleges the only representations threatened by the...

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